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What to Eat and Drink with Oral Cancer

Stall of vegetables at a busy farmers market

A healthy, nutritious diet is an important part of a cancer patient’s journey. The body functions best when eating well. Vitamins and minerals can increase strength and energy levels. Good nutrition can also help fight off infections and rebuild damaged cells. For patients diagnosed with oral cancer, the side effects and treatment can make it challenging to eat and drink.

Oral cancer affects the mouth, and patients often complain it makes it difficult to swallow. Other problems may include loss of appetite, painful sores, nausea, dry mouth, and changes in taste. These make it very difficult to eat or drink, which can lead to weight loss and poor nutrition. During your cancer treatments, you may need to make changes to maintain a healthy diet.

QHS Clinical Dietician Stacy Ching, helps oral cancer patients navigate the challenges of eating well. Stacy’s top piece of advice is: “Do your best to eat and drink throughout the day – include foods higher in calories and protein.”

Below are more tips and tricks for managing the side effects of oral cancer. A few simple tweaks can make mealtimes more enjoyable and keep you feeling at your best to fight off the disease.

General Mealtime Tips

  • Eat when you’re feeling best, no matter the time of day.
  • Focus on small frequent meals, rather than large traditional mealtime portions.
  • Consider cold foods over hot foods, and order takeout to avoid strong odors in the kitchen.
  • Use disposable or plastic utensils if metal silverware includes an unpleasant taste.

Beverage Tips:

Fluids are an essential part of nutrition for cancer patients, and you will likely need to drink plenty of
liquids throughout the day.

  • Fill your refrigerator and pantry with water, juice, soups, ice cream, ice pops, tea, milk, and gelatin.
  • Sip fluids frequently throughout the day.
  • Make shakes in a blender and add in fresh fruits and protein powder.
  • Suck on ice chips or sugar-free candies.

Food Tips:

Select nutrient-dense ingredients when making or eating foods. You may need extra protein and calories.
Rethink how you prepare items, such as soft, moist foods or those cooked in creams, gravies and oils may
be easier to eat.

  • Stock up on quick-and-easy snacks such as oatmeal, applesauce, eggs, frozen yogurt, cheese,
    crackers, nuts, and nut butters.
  • Choose fruits and vegetables that aren’t as acidic, such as cantaloupe, watermelon, spinach, and
  • Limit red meats and swap them for poultry and fish.
  • Avoid sugar and processed foods.

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